The financial planning process can be done in steps, with the outcome being your financial plan. Let’s discuss the steps to further your financial education.
1. Establish a goal
2. Gather data
3. Analyze data
4. Develop a plan
5. Implement the plan
6. Monitor the plan
First, we will focus on step 1, Establish a Goal!
This is essentially the most important step. Goals are meant to guide you in your pursuit to greatness. We set goals for what we want in our lives, so why not do the same for your finances. Financial goals may be immediate (taking a vacation) or long term (retiring in Key West!)
The purpose of establishing a goal is to form the foundation or purpose of planning itself. Setting a goal will allow you to start your financial journey with a clear vision of the destination. Too many people save and invest money with no specific goal in mind. The purpose of money must follow the purpose of life, not the other way around.
You can complete this step by getting to know yourself a little bit better. Do this be asking yourself some questions. Here some examples of open-ended questions you can use in framing your thinking around your planning:
• What are your feelings about investing in the stock market? Why do you think you feel that way?
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• What are some of your earliest memories and resulting experiences of financial planning (i.e., first savings account, first checking account, and first credit card)?
• What are your financial strengths? What are your financial weaknesses?
• How do you plan to save enough for retirement?
Asking yourself these questions will help you to frame your goals. Now you can structure your goals. Determine what your short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goals are. Some common financial goals are a dream vacation, a new home, college savings, retirement savings, and an emergency fund. Ask yourself, “What do I want to save, buy, or do in the next 3 months?” Then ask yourself the same thing for longer time frames. Think about 1 year out, then 5, 10, and 30 years out. Try to establish at least 5 financial goals.
Once you have your goals fleshed out, next you need to prioritize. Prioritize each of your financial goals in order of importance, and then determine how long you must save for each of them and the amount needed to achieve each goal. Retirement could be many years away and cost more, but your short-term goals could be in a year or two and will be attached to a smaller amount.
Don’t be discouraged if the dollar amount is overwhelming. The important thing is to have a set of tangible financial goals to work toward. As we go through the planning process, we will develop related objectives that will set you on the path to achieving your goal. We will work on gathering the needed data to set you plan in motion when we discuss step 2 next week!
Together, we will “Get Your (Financial) Life” right!